14 July 1940

14 July 1940

No.615 Squadron joined Hawkinge airfield with 13 aircraft at 13h00 to provide protection for the CW.5 sea convoy off Dover. Unfortunately the ships are also the target of the Luftwaffe. Forty Junkers Ju.87B of IV/LG 1, escorted by Bf 109E of 8/JG 3, are in charge of the attack, while II/JG 51 had to provide coverage[1].

The Red Section (Squadron Leader Joseph R. Kayll, Pilot Officer Cecil R. Montgomery and Michael R. Mudie) patrol when they see several Ju.87 Junkers diving on the ships from an altitude of about 3 600 metres. The first two pilots are able to fire a few shots on the German bombers, although without being able to observe the result, before having to withdraw under pressure from the Bf.109s.

Unfortunately the Hawker Hurricane Mk I L1584 of Pilot Officer Michael R. Mudie is hit during the fight off Dover (St Margaret Bay) and caught fire. The pilot managed to jump on parachute and is picked up by a speedboat. Seriously injured and burned, he died the next day in hospital.[2]. He was 24 years old. Tragically his brother, Flight Lieutenant Arthur F. Mudie was also killed in action on 14 November 1940 with No.84 (RAF) Squadron over Albania. They both lie in Molesey Cemetery (Surrey, England).[3].

Collection : Battle of Britain London Monument

It is difficult to determine the reasons for his loss: victim of the defensive fire of the Junkers Ju.87 or the Bf.109 in escort. Three victories (15.10 – 15.25) are claimed off Dover by II./JG 51 (Hauptman Horst Tietzen, Oberleutnant Josef Priller and Walter Krieger), while Oberleutnant Wilhelm Stange of 8./JG 3 claimed another one north-east of Folkestone (15.15). While some sources attribute the victory to Oberleutnant Josef Priller [4], others refer to a fratricidal blow from the anti-aircraft defence of the ships.

The events are followed live by one of the BBC journalists, Charles Gardner.

« Now the British fighters are coming up. Here they come. The Germans are coming in an absolute steep dive, and you can see their bombs actually leave the machines and come into the water. You can hear our guns going like anything now. I am looking round now. I can hear machine gunfire, but I can’t see our Spitfires. They must be somewhere there.”

Oh! Here’s one coming down. There’s one going down in flames. Somebody’s hit a German and he’s coming down with a long streak, coming down completely out of control… a long streak of smoke. And now a man’s baled out by parachute. The pilot’s baled out by parachute. He’s a Junkers 87, and he’s going slap into the sea… and there he goes. SMASH! A terrific column of water and there was a Junkers 87. Only one man got out by parachute, so presumably there was only a crew of one in it.

Now, then, oh, there’s a terrific mix-up over the Channel!! It’s impossible to tell which are our machines and which are Germans. There was one definitely down in this battle and there’s a fight going on. There’s a fight going on, and you can hear the little rattles of machine gun bullets.

Grump! That was a bomb, as you may imagine. Here comes one Spitfire. There’s a little burst. There’s another bomb dropping. Yes. It has dropped. It has missed the convoy. You know, they haven’t hit the convoy in all this. The sky is absolutely patterned with bursts of anti-aircraft fire, and the sea is covered with smoke where the bombs have burst, but as far as I can see there is not one single ship hit, and there is definitely one German machine down. And I am looking across the sea now. I can see the little white dot of parachute as the German pilot is floating down towards the spot where his machine crashed with such a big fountain of water about two minutes ago. 

You can hear the anti-aircraft bursts still going… Well, that was a really hot little engagement while it lasted. No damage done, except to the Germans, who lost one machine and the German pilot, who is still on the end of his parachute, though appreciably nearer the sea than he was. I can see no boat going out to pick him up, so he’ll probably have a long swim ashore.»[5]

What Gardner described as a downed Junkers Ju 87 is in fact the Hurricane of Pilot Officer Michael R. Mudie

The Yellow Section (Flying Officer John R.H. Gayer and Peter Collard; Pilot Officer Petrus H. Hugo) patrolling in the vicinity, at an altitude of about 900 metres, quickly intervened when the first bombs fell on the ships. They then engage a Kette of Junkers Ju.87. Flying Officer John R.H. Gayner (P2966) fired a long shot at the third aircraft of the formation, which he finally saw clear to the left before hitting the sea. The same happened to Flying Officer Peter Collard who attacked the second bomber of the formation. After a first shot, the Junkers Ju.87 turns to the left and starts to descend towards the sea. Peter Collard is then able to get closer and to fire another burst. The German aircraft tips over on its back and falls into the sea. However, he had to immediately clear towards Hawkinge under the pressure of two Bf.109s, which damaged the P2768. For his part, Pilot Officer Petrus H. Hugo (P2963) aimed at another enemy, quickly eliminating the machine gunner, who seemed to be starting to descend. After a second pass, it was the turn of the right wing of the Junkers Ju.87 to catch fire before crashing into the sea. On his way back towards the English coast, he observed another formation of about fifteen Junkers Ju.87s, which he immediately engaged. He had, however, to break off the fight for lack of ammunition. Three victories were then claimed by the three pilots. The Luftwaffe seems to recognise the loss of two Junkers Ju.87 B-1. The first was reported lost off Dover (Oberleutnant Kurt Sonnberg; Unteroffizier Fritz Donath), while the second was shot down in flames during the attack on the ships (Unteroffizier Sebastian Hüber and Heinz Hecke)[6].

The B Flight took off immediately to take the direction of the fight, but the Blue Section (Flight Lieutenant James G. Sanders, Flying Officer Anthony Eyre and Pilot Officer Ralph Roberts) is violently attacked by the Bf.109s and narrowly escaped with their damaged Hawer Hurricanes on Hawkinge. For its part, the Green Section (Flying Officer Herbert S. Giddings; Pilot Officer Richard D. Pexton; Sergeant Derrick W. Pexton ; Sergeant Derrick W. Pexton) returned to land without seeing anything.

No.615 Squadron is not the only squadron present. 10 Hawker Hurricane Mk I of No.151 (RAF) Squadron and 12 Supermarine Spitfire Mk I of No.610 Squadron are also reported. The pilots of No.610 Squadron are then tasked to conduct a patrol over Hawkinge at 14:50 when they are called over the ships. The Spitfires appear to be primarily engaging the Bf.109s.

Thus according to Pilot Officer Peter Litchfield (R.6765) :

« At 15:15, 610 Squadron, in Vic formation, with Green Section on the left, was approaching the north of Dover, when the leader’s attention was drawn to three or more aircraft diving very steeply in line astern from approximately 18000′ and passing to the right rear of the Squadron which was then at 15000′. Section leaders put their sections into aircraft astern and wheeled to starboard. As I turned, I saw at least two and perhaps more Messerschmitt 109s over the land below proceeding east and then turning south, at a height of perhaps 8000′. I told my section that they were 109s and dived steeply on to their tails, almost blacking out as I pulled out. Nos.2 and 3 did black-out and lost the target. I attacked one Me 109 as he crossed the coast ; his evasive tactics consisted of diving and climbing, but after the third bursts he dived steadily and at the fourth there was a burst of flame and then smoke covered the target, leaving only the wing tips visible. At this, a second 109 came to this assistance, and received two good bursts and was last seen climbing away to France with smoke coming from this tail (altought this may have been normal exhaust gases). I then set off back to my base. »[7]

A victory is claimed by Pilot Officer Peter Litchfield, while the rest of the Spitfires seemed to operate in high cover without being able to engage the Germans. Two Bf.109 E-1s of the 8./JG 3 are reportedly damaged during this confrontation. The pilot of the first (wounded) had to parachute into the vicinity of Boulogne, while the second landed damaged on the Wissant airfield[8].

Meanwhile, the Hawker Hurricane of No.151 (RAF) Squadron took off at 15:00 from Rochford to intercept the opposing formation west of Dover. They faced a formation identified as Bf.110s and Bf.109s at about 15:20, at an altitude of about 4 500 metres. Three unconfirmed victories are claimed by Squadron Leader Edward M. Donaldson, Flight Lieutenant Roddick L. Smith and Pilot Officer Jack R. Hamar.[9].

As far as the sea convoy is concerned, the German bombardment caused some damage. Thus, the coal merchant SS Island Queen is seriously damaged and sinks before being able to reach the port (with three sailors), the SS Mons is damaged, as well as the Norwegian steamer Balder. Finally, one of the escort destroyers: the HMS Vanessa has to be towed to the port of Dover due to damage to the propulsion system[10].

All the pilots of No.615 Squadron return to Kenley at 19:00 where they receive a congratulatory telegram from Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Pilots and Aircrafts :

  • Squadron Leader Joseph R. Kayll (P3109), Pilot Officer Cecil R. Montgomery (P3160) ; Pilot Officer Michael R. Mudie (L1584), Flying Officer Peter Collard (P2768), Flying Officer John R.H. Gayner (P2966), Pilot Officer Petrus H. Hugo (P2963), Flight Lieutenant James G. Sanders (P3487), Flying Officer Anthony Eyre (P3151), Pilot Officer Ralph Roberts (P3161), Flying Officer Richard D. Pexton (P3158), Flying Officer Herbert S. Giddings (P3111), Sergeant Derrick W. Halton (P2678) [CW.5 sea convoy protection off Dover (13:05 – 16:15)].
  • Flight Lieutenant James G. Sanders (P3161), Flying Officer Herbert S. Giddings (P3111), Flying Officer Anthony Eyre (P3151) [Patrol Hawkinge et Kenley (16:30 – 18:15)]?

Loses :

  • Pilot Officer Michael R. Mudie (L1584) : Shot down during the battle, he parachuted (seriously wounded and burned) off the coast of Dover, and died the next day in hospital.

Claims :

  • Peter Collard (P2768) : one Ju.87B-1 (IV./LG 1) off Dover (15:20 – 15:45),
  • Flying Officer John R.H. Gayner (P2966) : one Ju.87B-1 (IV./LG 1) off Dover (15:20 – 15:45),
  • Pilot Officer Petrus H. Hugo : un Ju.87B-1 (IV./LG 1) off Dover (15:20 – 15:45).

[1] PARRY, SIMON W. Battle of Britain Combat Archive, n°1 (10 July – 22 July 1940). Red Kite. 2015. p.62.

[2] PARRY, SIMON W. Battle of Britain Combat Archive, n°1 (10 July – 22 July 1940). Red Kite. 2015. p.65 et 66. The Battle of Britain Historical Timeline – 14 July 1940 : https://battleofbritain1940.com/entry/sunday-14-july-1940/

[3] WYNN, Kenneth G. Men of The Battle of Britain: A Biographical Dictionary of The Few. Frontline Books, 2015. Précisions toute fois que son frère ne dispose d’aucune tombe connu, il est uniquement commémoré au Alamein Mémorial ainsi que sur une plaque apposée sur le tombe de Michael R. Mudie.

[4] KACHA, Petr. Aces of the Luftwaffe – Josef Priller : https://www.luftwaffe.cz/priller.html

[5] Pour une version complète du texte (en anglais) : The Spitfire Site – A Tribute to Britain’s Finest Fighter, Stories of the Battle of Britain 1940 : http://spitfiresite.com/2010/07/battle-of-britain-1940-charles-gardner-broadcast.html ; NORTH, Richard. The Many Not The Few – The Stolen History of the Battle of Britain. Continuum. 2012. p.1 à 3.

[6] PARRY, SIMON W. Battle of Britain Combat Archive, n°1 (10 July – 22 July 1940). Red Kite. 2015. p.65.

[7] BAILEY, David J. 610 (County of Chester), Auxiliary Air Force Squadron (1936 – 1940). Fonthill : 2019. p.226.

[8] BAILEY, David J. 610 (County of Chester) Auxiliary Air Force Squadron (1936 – 1940). Fonthill : 2019. p.226 à 228 ; PARRY, SIMON W. Battle of Britain Combat Archive, n°1 (10 July – 22 July 1940). Red Kite. 2015. p.65 et 66.

[9] PARRY, SIMON W. Battle of Britain Combat Archive, n°1 (10 July – 22 July 1940). Red Kite. 2015. p.62 et 64.

[10] NORTH, Richard. The Many Not The Few – The Stolen History of the Battle of Britain. Continuum. 2012. p.3.

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